In the natural world, things are connected. The very real, substantive, and fundamental connections between people, the animals and plants and water and earth of ecosystems, the ways of knowing and learning, and different cultural worldviews are complex and meaningful — and always profoundly relational.
Western culture compartmentalized organisms, academic disciplines, and human cultures at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment as a way of permitting closer logical analysis and therefore better understanding. At the same time, analytical ways of learning marked by reason were privileged over other ways of learning such as spiritual revelation, intuition, and art. While the social and political benefits of this cultural movement were significant, there were also drawbacks due to the fact that the system does not match the deeply interconnected and highly diverse reality of the natural world itself. And of course people, and the ways they think about things, are part of this world. So compartmentalization has begun to give way to connection.
Interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary scholarship thinks about the connections between different academic disciplines such as art and science. The people who talk and write about this type of connection realize that it seems to mirror the connection seen in ecosystems. The specialized group of integrated scholarship called ecopsychology focuses on the connection between human physiological and psychological systems with nature. The specialized discipline of resilience ecology studies the connections between ecological system patterns and the patterns of human social and political systems, connections that are seen as meaningful rather than metaphorical.
Tapestry Institute works to create learning opportunities that integrate different ways of knowing, learning about, and responding to the natural world. Different disciplines and natural phenomena such as ecological and political systems are therefore integrated as well. We do not privilege any one way of knowing over others, but we also encourage discernment about how heavily to weigh any information in a particular situation. Different situations call for different responses, a pragmatic truism known in leadership training as “situation awareness.”
Because human beings are a part of the natural world, the ways we learn and understand are also based in nature. To us, this means that as people learn to re-value and reclaim all the different ways of knowing and learning, we begin to act as part of nature rather than as something somehow set apart from it. And then as we begin to integrate understandings gained from all these different ways of knowing, creatively and responsibly, we can begin to make wiser decisions about our environments, our bodies, and our lives — decisions that will help restore humanity to its more natural place in the world. We believe this is a vitally important way to help reweave the natural world that has been so seriously torn apart by human efforts to live as if we are somehow outside of it.
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